Restoration plan for Pacific Horizon Preserve in Laguna Beach gets Planning Commission approval

Images of a bike berm and trail to be closed in the Pacific Horizon Preserve in Laguna Beach.
A bike berm, left, and an unauthorized foot trail, right, are to be removed at the Pacific Horizon Preserve in Laguna Beach.
(Photos courtesy of Orange County Transportation Authority)

Work outlined in a habitat restoration plan submitted by the Orange County Transportation Authority for the Pacific Horizon Preserve in Laguna Beach can get underway following approval by the city Planning Commission on Wednesday.

The California Coastal Commission approved the plan in September, including the condition that the county transit agency acquire necessary permits from Laguna Beach before issuance of the coastal development permit needed for the restoration to begin.

OCTA purchased the 151-acre property in 2015 as part of the Environmental Mitigation Program included in Measure M, a half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements approved by county voters in 1990 and extended in 2006.

Measure M is expected to generate more than $13.1 billion through 2041. The mitigation program allocates funds to acquire land and pay for habitat restoration efforts to offset the environmental effects of freeway projects.

Pacific Horizon is one of seven properties the agency has purchased. It is near the Ranch at Laguna Beach hotel, Barracuda Way and Loretta Drive.

OCTA plans to close an unauthorized 843-foot trail and restore a half-acre of habitats disturbed by the unapproved modifications. It also will remove bike jumps and repair any damage caused by erosion.

Plans also include removing invasive plants, including artichoke thistle, pampas grass and ice plant, on about four acres of the preserve and replacing them with native vegetation such as Dudleya multicaulis, a perennial succulent.

OCTA also intends to repair 1,114 feet of fencing and install new signs and three monitoring cameras on the preserve.

Closure of the unauthorized path will not prevent public access to the preserve, officials said. The path was described as “duplicative” of the main trail in a report by Coastal Commission staff.

“We appreciate the partnership with Laguna Beach and we look forward to continuing to deliver on the promise to voters through Measure M to preserve valuable plant and animal life while continuing to improve transportation throughout Orange County,” Eric Carpenter, a spokesman for OCTA, said Friday.

The county agency expects the invasive plant removal to begin in early 2020, weather permitting.

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